Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Claudia prefers to stay on the periphery of the social scene at her private girls’ school, where no one knows how remarkably funny, caring, and wonderful she truly is. That is, until she accidentally witnesses the very awkward breakup of the school’s “It Couple” Iris and Paige, an incident which triggers a series of events that culminates in her forced participation in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in conjunction with adjacent boys’ school Danforth. Thus thrust into the thick of all the things she had tried to avoid, Claudia must learn to navigate new dramas of her own, from her tentative, grudging friendship with prickly Iris to her budding feelings for Gideon Prewitt, the goofy, kindhearted, larger-than-life boy who is friends with everyone, but might want to be more than friends with her. Outside of school, Claudia is lucky to have the support of a wonderful family and a loyal best friend, with whom she nerds out over her favorite MMORPG and shares a lifetime of inside jokes. But when cracks begin to appear in her relationships, Claudia must reconcile her two worlds and realize, at long last, the profound value and worth she brings to them both.
Populated by a cast of complicated, whip-smart, immensely likeable characters and rife with hilarious banter, this is a feel-good, relatable novel sure to delight readers in the mood for a good story and a good laugh. Hand this to fans of big-hearted, funny high school contemporaries such as Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, and Saving Francesca for a guaranteed good time.
A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan
Publication Date: February 27th, 2018
Zarin fights to survive. Porus fights for love. When both are found dead in a car accident, the police of Saudi Arabia are only able to see the taboo of a boy and a girl alone together. What they don’t see, are the events that led up to Zarin and Porus’s tragic deaths. Zarin is a smart and courageous girl who has persevered through her parents abandoning her, her abusive aunt, and the slut shaming of her peers. She has learned to rely solely on herself to survive. That is, until Porus falls for her and see’s what others choose not to: Someone worth looking past the rumors and stereotypes. Someone who is worth it. Someone who is strong.
Though many instances are specific to Saudi Arabian culture, the themes of sexual assault, abuse, bullying, and fighting to be yourself and not who the rumors say you are, are universally relevant to any teen. Told in alternating viewpoints, this raw and sobering novel is a culturally diverse experience that highlights tolerance in an assortment of situations. This tragic and haunting story will stay with you for months to come. Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault and physical abuse.
Fans of the show Thirteen Reasons Why will appreciate the non-linear timeline of the story, as well as the poignant and heart wrenching moments of loss and stereotyping. Fans of The Hate U Give will enjoy a similar window into the lives of underrepresented cultures in teen literature.
When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Teenagers Hank and Ana and their younger brother Milo are still staggering from the sudden abandonment by their father when they are infected by an alien creature that appears in the desert near their home. Through Hank’s hands, Ana’s eyes, and Milo’s ears, the alien they name Luz experiences this new world. At the same time, Luz’s presence heightens the children’s senses. However, when Luz suddenly leaves, he seems to take the abilities of these parts of the Vasquez children with him, leaving them to struggle with both his and their father’s abandonment without all of their senses intact.
This is a complex and imaginative merging of science fiction with a contemporary, character-driven look at family dysfunction. Told through the viewpoints of the three Vasquez children and their mother, this slowly evolving story realistically portrays the aftermath of a family trauma and the individual and collective struggles that follow. The multiple narratives are well-written, giving a poignant perspective into each character’s mind, including Hank’s open acceptance of his homosexuality and Ana’s struggles with self harm. Metaphors, parallels and symbolism contribute to a beautiful narrative on forgiveness, family, friendship, and identity.
Hand this to teens who enjoy unusual, complex reads. Fans of Andrew Smith and Shaun David Hutchinson’s unique brand of science fiction should enjoy this.
–Carol Maples and Jenny Zbrizher